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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's assault on the rebel-held region of Eastern Ghouta has continued despite worldwide pleas for a ceasefire. Damascus has consistently denied using chemical weapons.

The UN humanitarian coordinator, Panos Moumtzis, has made this appeal but with no avail.

Also Friday, Save the Children said tens of thousands of children are in immediate danger in the besieged eastern suburbs of the capital of Damascus, also known as eastern Ghouta, which has been under intense shelling and airstrikes that left more than 200 dead in the past five days.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said it was "not realistic" to impose a ceasefire because armed groups fighting Assad's forces were unlikely to uphold it.

This lopsided logic is most regrettable, especially coming from a super power, and at a time when the areas affected are declared as de-escalation zones, an idea that Moscow itself sponsored and promoted.

It said the assault reflects the "dirty USA intentions against Syria's sovereignty and territorial unity". The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. By the end of a year ago, health care facilities had been attacked nearly 500 times since the start of the conflict, mostly by Russian and Syrian warplanes.

Gen. H.R. McMaster met with senior Turkish officials Sunday to reaffirm the long-standing partnership between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, as Ankara continues to issue thinly-veiled threats against USA forces in northern Syria.

"We should make efforts and take measures in a way that no country feels threatened by its neighbours, " Rouhani said in the meeting with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday.

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All throughout Syria, except in areas firmly under the government's control, the violence has escalated precipitously.

The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost importance" is being put on avoiding harming civilians.

Activists have said at least 211 were killed since Monday in eastern Ghouta. However, the USA chose to step back, saying that they no longer held an interest in Afrin.

Unconfirmed Turkish media reports had said that Turkey halted flights after Russia closed the airspace over Afrin after militants shot down a Russian Su-25 fighter jet in Idlib province on February 3.

Eastern Ghouta is supposed to be one of four "de-escalation zones" declared past year in a bid to reduce the bloodshed. Turkey already has deployed troops in Idlib to such posts, and some of its soldiers have come under attack.

The officials provided the information on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed.

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